South Kolkata Overpass Down as Nation Suffers Epidemic of Bridge Collapses



The near five decade old Majerhat Bridge, a convenient and much-used railway overpass needed to connect the city to its southern suburbs at Diamond Harbour and institutions such as Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, collapsed in the afternoon close to rush hour in South Kolkata.

Police have confirmed one dead and 24 injuries. Soumen Beg who was riding pillion on a motorbike was thrown from the two-wheeler as the surface of the bridge caved in. He fell in the gap, and while rescue workers pulled him out, the unfortunate victim was pronounced dead on arrival at SSKM hospital.

Casualties are expected rise as labourers working on the Joka-BVD metro rail project beneath the flyover may have been caught in the falling structure. Until late evening, rescue workers were wriggling and scraping through the narrow gaps in the debris to try and rescue those trapped underneath as municipal labourers trapped beneath screamed for help. They used gas cutters and drilling machines and extricated bags, mobile phones, clothes and utensils from under the debris.

Workers engaged in the Joka-BBD Bag Metro Rail project said that they had built shanties under the bridge to cook and that five to six of their fellow workers were still trapped underneath.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the incident in a Tweet saying, “The collapse of a part of a bridge in Kolkata is deeply unfortunate. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. I pray that those who are injured recover at the earliest.”

The Chief Minister, who is on an administrative visit to Darjeeling, said that a high-powered committee headed by the state Chief Secretary would probe the collapse. “Six construction workers are trapped. Contact could be established with two,” Ms. Banerjee said.

For Banerjee, it was the second time in two years that she was out of Kolkata during a bridge collapse. In 2016, the crumbling Vivekananda flyover – a new construction – claimed 26 lives. Banerjee was was addressing a rally in Midnapore, a few hours outside Kolkata. She rushed back and got there ironically before the emergency cranes that could lift the enormous girders at accident site. This time she was in Darjeeling and unable to return because there are no flights in the evening.

West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi, who visited the accident site, said the maintenance of the bridge rested jointly with the State PWD and Railways and that the “matter needs to be inquired into”.

Promises of probes abounded after the 2016 collapse but nothing happened. The MLA in that constituency was re-elected, and while two government officials were arrested till date, there is still no chargesheet filed against them. According to the media, 10 officials of Hyderabad-based private company IVRCL were chargesheeted. Four others, hired by IVRCL from other companies, were booked but not chargesheeted. All accused are free on bail, and two years later, the cases against them have not moved forward. The building syndicates who reportedly are close to Trinamul Congress Party municipal officials, and who had supplied poor quality materials have never been arrested. And, this nexus of thugs, business men and politicians, continue their turf wars unabated.

The latest collapse is caps off a series of similar incidents. Recently, a bridge collapse in Mumbai in July due to heavy rains occurred barely 7 months after a structural safety audit. The Mumbai bridge was built around the same time as the Majerhat flyover, and was also run by the Railways Ministry. Nobody died but minutes before the incident, three trains full of commuters sped by. Had the collapse occurred then, the impact would have been devastating.

In February of this year, an under construction five-story bridge collapsed in Bangalore killing three. A few months later a foot-bridge and four storey building collapsed in the same city, known for being the high-tech capital of India.


Outlook Magazine details similar incidents as follows:

VARANASI, 2018: At least 18 people were killed when an under-construction flyover collapsed in Varanasi earlier this year.

LUDHIANA, 2018: Gill flyover (Gill chowk) in Ludhiana collapsed last week possibly due to rats. Municipal officer Dharam Singh said, “there was a dump below the flyover due to which rats inhabited the spot. It was the rats who damaged the flyover”. No casualty was reported.

NEW-DELHI, 2015: A portion of the Wazirabad- Janakpuri elevated corridor collapsed on to a busy road in outer Delhi’s Pitampura area, damaging three parked cars and injuring two people seriously. According to the reports, preliminary investigations suggested that the straps holding the block snapped causing the corridor to fall.

SURAT, 2014: Three labourers were killed and six others injured when a portion of an under-construction flyover collapsed in Parle point area of the city, Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) Commissioner MK Das told PTI. The mishap occurred when the labourers were shifting the columns of the bridge during which a portion of the flyover fell on them, he said. The collapsed flyover was a part of the city`s cable-wire bridge connecting Parle point area to Adajan near Tapi river, Das said. The SMC has formed a committee to inquire into the collapse and an FIR has been ordered.

UTTARAKHAND, 2012: Six labourers died and 36 others were injured when an under-construction bridge collapsed at Chauraas in Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand.

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